Disrupting Thinking


Disrupting Thinking (paperback)

by Kylene Beers & Robert E. Probst


Disrupting Thinking got so much buzz on Twitter and in professional learning communities, I had to add it to my summer reading list.  I bought it over Spring Break, but saved it for summer since I knew it would be a lot to take in.  There were quotes and thoughts posted all over, and someone even said they threw the book across the room when they read how some kids were treated in schools.  So, my expectations were high.

The book is divided into 3 sections: The Readers We Want, The Framework We Use, and The Changes We Must Embrace.  I found the first third to be a little dry.  The second third was okay, and the last third was where I found the bulk of my “ahas” and “yeses!”  A lot of it made me uncomfortable, because I saw there were things I did that I shouldn’t, and things I know people around me do.

There are a LOT of things I could write about, but here are my top 5 “take aways” from Disrupting Thinking (in no particular order).  Remember, every reader/teacher is different, and different things affect us depending on where we teach, what we already do, and what our personal teaching philosophies and goals are.

1.  The BHH Framework  This is something I will implement immediately, like the first day of school!  BHH stands for in the Book, in your Head, and in your Heart.  I’m posting an anchor chart below so you can see the questions associated with each letter.  I loved that the authors included transcripts of recorded conversations between children about the book they read together to show the impact of the BHH strategy.  I appreciated that they shared a primary, upper, and middle school example, because while the depth of conversations are different at each level, they’re still impactful.


from the book

2.  Silent Reading doesn’t improve test scores!  Have you heard that?  I heard it a few years ago, but ignored it.  So as it turns out, that’s only true if the silent reading is UNSUPERVISED.  Instead, the reading should be FOCUSED.  If the teacher is giving mini lessons, having conversations with the reader, and expecting the reader to be involved in the reading, then the results are opposite.  That means that as the teacher, it is not time for me to grade papers, organize my desk, answer emails, or pick up my own book.  I need to engage with my students about their books.  Oh, and more importantly, give them CHOICE!

3.  Doing things because we’ve always done them.  Spelling tests, for example.  We ask students to memorize a list of words, because we did the same thing when we were in school.  Round Robin and Popcorn Reading – I HATED that when I was younger!  I was nodding my head to many of these.  And you know what?  I’m guilty of a lot of the examples.  I do many of these practices because it’s just a practice, not necessarily a best practice.  This is where things got uncomfortable for me as a teacher.

4.  Best Practices Chart  I liked this chart.  I want to refer back to it often to make sure I’m doing the items on the chart.  We also have to be wary about “best practices” and figure out what makes them BEST.  Is there actual research, or is it just a common practice (see #3 above).

5.  Children receiving less because of “differentiation.”  The book pointed out that differentiation that results in a diminished educational experience for some is a form of segregation.  Ugh.  So the 4-5-6 “intervention” class I taught many years ago and prevented kids from participating in the general curriculum with their peers was hurtful!  I an struggling, because I have the top 1/3 of the grade level in a “GATE” class (with only a few identified students).  That means that my 34ish students are getting a different experience than the other 2/3 of the grade level.  However, I have to remind myself that they are receiving this because I am their teacher, not because they are GATE.  We used to be favored by our principal and receive extra benefits, but not anymore.  Equity for all, regardless of how high or low performing students are!

Book 15 of summer 2017!




Summerlost (Kindle)

by Ally Condie

AR Level 4.1, 6 points


Summerlost appeared on my radar when Ally Condie started appearing in the book orders.  She has another series in the young adult genre, and she was at the Book Fest signing books, but I’d never read any of her books, so I didn’t stand in the long line of waiting fans.  This particular book also appears on some of the Mock Newbery lists, so I thought I should give it a try.

Cedar Lee is 12 years old, and she moves to the town her mother grew up in, but just for the summer.  She is mourning the deaths of her dad and brother while her mom builds a deck on the new house and her other brother tries to get her attention.  Cedar immediately notices Leo, a boy in her neighborhood who she learns works for the local Shakespeare festival, Summerlost.  He is not an actor, but sells refreshments to visitors, although he is very interested in theater.  Cedar and Leo embark on a a summer of friendship, mystery, and entrepreneurship as they give tours and talk about a deceased actress who started in their small town.  Cedar finds herself struggling with her family’s tragedy while dealing with the ups and downs of being 12.

What I liked about this book was the detailed descriptions.  It was almost as though Ally Condie herself lived in a house with a diamond window or a tree with vultures nesting in it.  It also touches on some important life events that I think most books don’t talk about- the death of a loved one, and coming to terms with loss.

What I didn’t like about this book was not necessarily the book’s fault.  I thought this was a young adult book, so I didn’t buy a hard copy for my class library.  It is on the border of being a children’s book and young adult, so I can see why the line would be blurred, but it’s only written at a 4.1 and there is nothing touchy about it that might make it inappropriate for a sixth grader.  I regret not looking into it more than I did, but then again, it’s still hardcover, and I don’t think it is worth $16 like other hardcover books I’ve purchased in the past.

Book 5 of 10 (summer goal)



Pax (hardcover)

by Sara Pennypacker

AR Level 5.3, 8 points


I bought this book, because I’d stalked it at the bookstore, and the illustrator (Jon Klassen) happened to be signing copies at the Book Fest in April.  He happens to be a really warm, kind man, and not fake like so many other authors or illustrators who come out to meet fans in mass.  I also saw that this is a book on the Mock Newbery list, so I figured it would be a good one to try out.

Pax is a red fox and Peter is his boy.  Peter is forced to give up his fox, even though he raised Pax from a tiny kit and Pax has never lived in the wild (except for the short time before Peter found him).  Peter is angry, which we find out is a family trait, and he sets out to find Pax after his father leaves for war.  (Sidenote: I’m really confused about this war.  It is a war over water, and apparently in the United States, so I’m guessing it’s totally fictional, but I couldn’t figure out if it’s also symbolic of some other “war.”)  With Peter and Pax both on their own in the wilderness and left to fend for themselves, both become wilder, tougher, and are forced into survival mode.  Peter runs into a woman named Vola, who not only teaches Peter survival skills, but also helps him come to terms with himself (while he helps her do the same).  Pax runs into several foxes, including Bristle and Runt, who teach him how to survive in the wild and be part of the animal world.  In the end, both Peter and Pax learn who they are and what is important to them.  I won’t spoil the ending, but it is heart-wrenching and heart-warming at the same time.

What I liked about this book was the multiple perspectives.  I always like books that show the world from a meaningful perspective.  Pax and Peter alternated chapters, and their lives seemed to parallel each other’s, which I found clever and easy to follow.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it was sad at times, and very frustrating!  You can feel Pax’s and Peter’s frustrations through the multiple perspectives.  I also want to say it was slow, but I think I was the slow one, with it being the last month of school and all.  May is never a good time to start a new book when you’re a teacher!

Book 1 of 10 (summer reading challenge!)

Sidenote: have you heard of the Mock Newbery awards?  The reading list changes, depending on which website you’re reading, but Pax is on most, as well as Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo.  Last year, I read as many of the potential candidates as I could, and almost none of them ended up mentioned.  I’m open to your ideas.

Spy School


Spy School (paperback)

by Stuart Gibbs

AR Level 5.3, 9 points

I was so excited to read this book, because I’d stalked it in Barnes & Noble for months and months and months.  I had a bunch of pictures of the cover in my phone.  Did I ever mention that I take pictures of the books that I want to read, and then when I’m feeling unmotivated, I go and buy one of them?  Yes, I do that.  Part of my nerdiness.  So I had been taking pictures of it for months.  Then, at the USC Festival of Books, Stuart Gibbs was sitting there at a table, signing books!  I was so excited, I bought a bunch of his books.  All except for this one, the first in the series.  Face palm.  Anyway, I ordered it using my Scholastic points and finished it.  Short story long.

This is the story of a boy who was hand-selected to attend a special school for future spies, run by the CIA.  It turns out it is very poorly run, and Ben wasn’t exactly hand-selected, nor did he qualify.  He is an awkward middle school boy who has a crush on a cute girl.  He isn’t particularly skilled at anything (except math), but he learns quickly that he has to learn the ropes or fail at being a real spy, his dream job.

What I liked about this book was that it was written comically.  We see the CIA as a mysterious, powerful entity.  We common folk will probably never deal directly with the CIA or spies in general, but we don’t exactly see them as being goofy, incompetent, or pompous fools.  It actually reminded me a lot of a normal school, with powerful people not so powerful, and the students being given a lot less credit than they deserve.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it got a little complicated in parts.  I actually lost track of character names.  That could have been my fault, but it wasn’t a “can’t put it down” kind of book.  Good, but not as engaging as others I’ve read.

Now, I need my niece to finish reading Spy Camp so I can get started on the sequel!  There is a third book (Evil Spy School), but it is hardcover, so I’ll wait for it to come out in paperback.  There is also another series, and I bought two of those books.  I enjoyed meeting Stuart Gibbs, because I liked putting an actual person to the stories I read.

Book 6 of 40 (year 2)